The international non-profit that coordinates management of the internet told Ukraine it will not intervene in the country’s war with Russia, rebuffing a request to cut Russia off from the global internet.
Ukraine’s proposal is neither technically feasible nor within the mission of ICANN, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, according to a letter ICANN sent to Ukrainian officials on Wednesday.
“As you know, the Internet is a decentralized system. No one actor has the ability to control it or shut it down,” ICANN CEO Göran Marby wrote in the the letter.
Marby expressed his personal concern about Ukrainians’ well-being as well as the “terrible toll being exacted on your country.” But, he wrote, “our mission does not extend to taking punitive actions, issuing sanctions, or restricting access against segments of the Internet – regardless of the provocations.”
“Essentially,” he added, “ICANN has been built to ensure that the Internet works, not for its coordination role to be used to stop it from working.”
Internet governance experts previously told CNN that ICANN was expected to reject Ukraine’s plea, and that Ukraine’s proposal, if implemented, could have devastating consequences for average Russian internet users, including dissidents.
The original request, sent on Monday from Ukraine’s representative on ICANN’s Governmental Advisory Committee, called for the Russian internet country code .RU and its Cyrillic equivalents to be revoked. The representative, Andrii Nabok, also said he was sending a separate request to Europe and Central Asia’s regional internet registry, asking it to take back all of the IP addresses it had assigned to Russia.
Nabok argued that the measures would be another way for the world to sanction Russia for its invasion of Ukraine, and that it would help internet users access “reliable information in alternative domain zones, preventing propaganda and disinformation.”
Taking back Russian IP addresses could effectively have caused Russian websites to disappear from the internet because they have no assigned place to sit, Mallory Knodel, chief technology officer at the Center for Democracy and Technology, a US-based think tank, previously told CNN.
It would also mean that smartphones, computers and other connected devices in Russia would be unable to access the wider internet because they would no longer have assigned IP addresses that could identify those devices to a global network, Knodel said.